UAB Magazine Weekly - Features on Health Care
An Inside Look at UAB’s Pediatric Optometry Service
By Caperton Gillett
Optometry resident Nathan Steinhafel examines a seven-month-old patient. The UAB Pediatric Optometry Service sees children from birth up to age 18; it also provides vision therapy for patients of all ages.
Kristine Hopkins, O.D., M.S.P.H., never knows what to expect from her patients when she gives them an eye exam. There’s the occasional spontaneous dance performance, for example, or unsolicited reports on the behavior of family members.
But that’s part of the adventure of being a pediatric optometrist, says Hopkins, chief of vision therapy at UAB Eye Care, the clinical arm of the School of Optometry. “The unpredictability of a four-year-old is what I live for from clinic day to clinic day,” she explains, standing in front of a toy-filled nook painted to resemble a jungle with peeping animal eyes. “It’s a really fun environment.”
It also can be a challenging one. The vast majority of patients in the pediatric optometry service are school-aged or younger, which means many may not be able to read the letters and numbers that make up a standard adult eye exam.
So optometrists like Hopkins rely on tools such as the Electronic Visual Acuity tester (EVA)—a setup with a computer and a TV screen to test young patients’ vision—and toys and videos to keep them occupied. “It’s mostly about having the right equipment to keep them involved,” Hopkins says. “We have to give them targets that are interesting and stimulating.”
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New Life After Cancer
By Josh Till
Advanced procedures now available at UAB can help women and men preserve or restore their ability to start a family after cancer treatment, says G. Wright Bates Jr., director of UAB's Division of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility.
When patients are diagnosed with cancer, they suddenly face a lot of questions about a lot of issues—treatment options, insurance concerns, sick time from work, and many others. But there is one question many patients often don’t think about: Will cancer affect my ability to have children?
For some, the answer is yes. The number of individuals facing cancer during their reproductive years is significant—about 800,000 men and women. Depending on the type of cancer and the treatments involved, the chances for survivors to conceive after treatment can be low.
But UAB’s Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility Services Clinic is working to increase those chances. The clinic offers patients several options to preserve or restore their fertility to start a family after they complete their cancer treatment.
“Today UAB offers several advanced procedures for preserving fertility, especially for women,” says G. Wright Bates Jr., M.D., director of the Division of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility. “We want to raise awareness among men and women going through chemotherapy and radiation about their options and encourage discussion of reproductive issues with their oncologist.”
UAB Reaches Out Around the World
UAB School of Nursing student Michelle Blackburn in Honduras
“The power went out immediately, as soon as things started shaking,” Holcomb remembers. “The bridges were out; the roads were torn up. We thought about trying to get out, but when we found out how difficult it would be to get to the airport, we decided we would just continue with our plans as best we could. We had a cold breakfast of tortillas and went on about our business.”
Weighing the Value of Public Health
By Jo Lynn Orr
UAB Public Health students helped bring visibility to their future profession by taking part in the "This Is Public Health" campaign, placing stickers on examples of public health in action around Birmingham. See more of their handiwork here.
Public health has an image problem. This is somewhat surprising, considering that the field has spent the past hundred years transforming American life for the better. In 1900, the life expectancy of the average American was just over 47 years; a century later, it was 77 years and rising. And according to a 1994 study cited by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 25 years of this 30-plus year gain in life expectancy can be attributed to advances in public health. Vaccinations, food safety, workplace safety, motor-vehicle safety, infectious disease control, smoking prevention—each of these public health measures has played a part in extending the lives of millions in the United States and around the world.
The SON’s partnerships in Honduras have been dealt a setback by the country’s ongoing political instability; faculty members Karen Saenz, Ph.D., M.P.H., M.S.N., C.P.N.P., and Lygia Holcomb, D.S.N., C.R.N.P., had to cancel a trip there with students earlier this summer. However, Saenz expresses confidence that the bonds SON faculty have built with their counterparts in Honduras have grown strong enough to weather any temporary disruptions. “We’re planning on having some of those faculty come here this year—I think we’ve gone to Honduras enough, and kept in close enough contact with them, that the political situation isn’t going to make a big, long-term impact on what we’re doing,” she says.
One approach to enhance global nursing capacity and leadership is an international nursing leadership program that is sponsored by the PAHO/WHO Collaborating Center every other year. In January 2008, 18 nurses from Brazil, Chile, Colombia, and Honduras participated in the three-week program in Birmingham. During the program, nurses lived with volunteer host families, participated in a class on global leadership, studied English at the UAB English Language and Culture Institute, and developed projects to improve health in their host countries, all in collaboration with UAB faculty.
“It has been wonderful to see those nurses come to Birmingham,” Saenz adds. “Many of them had never had passports before; some of them had never even left their area of the country. So it was such an amazing opportunity for them to come and see what a university hospital is like. We’re trying to integrate them into research, scholarship, and teaching, trying to raise their perception of what a nurse is and can be. Often they only think of a nurse as standing at a bedside or treating individual people in a certain area, but we’re trying to show them, ‘No, you can do more. You can set up entire shelters; you can influence political changes and make a difference in a community.’ And I think they’re starting to get that idea now.”
“We have a network now that involves nurses from many different countries,” Saenz says. “The Chileans can talk with the Hondurans, and the Hondurans can talk with the Brazilians—it’s not just us giving out the information. Their situations have a lot of similarities, and they have to be able to solve those problems by collaborating with others in the region. By partnering, we collaborate on problems that our counterparts in Latin America are able to help us with as well.”
Holcomb describes the Latin American nurses they’ve worked with as “cultural experts” in their own right. “Sometimes when we suggest things that we’d like to come and do, they say, ‘No, that’s not going to be important here. Let’s don’t focus on obesity in children—let’s get people food first.’ At the same time, it’s interesting to see cultures collaborate and share so many common experiences. They’re interested in wellness and health care, and they’re learning, just like we are. Together, we’re making a difference.”